Since 1976, John "Eddie" Edwards has been playing drums for The Vibrators, one of England's original punk acts. Nearly four decades later, he finds himself the sole original member, as the band continues to release albums and tour steadily.
From a van driving through Ohio and in anticipation of Saturday night's gig at LaGrange, Edwards spoke about his band's long and lively history and how Queen inspired him to start The Vibrators.
Even after all of these years, is your band name still one that must be whispered by people at work? No, I don't think so. There's nothing to be ashamed of. I know back in the '70s, people were a little bit dubious, but then we got played on the radio. No worries with that now. I think women are more emancipated now. They don't worry about things like that. We even have our own line of vibrators, so now women can have their own vibrator from the Vibrators.
Are you still playing 130 shows a year? Is that too exhausting of a schedule? Yes, we play 120 to 130 shows a year and it's not that exhausting. I am sure it is much more exhausting when you are working as a laborer, digging holes in the road. I am sure that is much more tiring.
How do you maintain your energy level, lots of coffee or energy drinks? No, you just get up in the morning and you get into the van. You drive off to the next gig. I don't know. It's just a routine for us. I just thank God that I don't have to wake up and go to an office every day. I don't want to do the same thing day in and day out. At least we get to go to different places, see friends, write songs and get into the studio. That's what keeps you going. No day is ever the same.
The band has existed, in some form, since 1976. Have those years gone by in a blink of an eye? Some years seem longer than others, but you know how it is when you are getting older. It seems as long between one and twenty as it does between twenty and fifty. Time goes faster as you get older.
You've seen punk rock since the beginning. Has punk evolved and if not, does it need to? That's a difficult question. It probably does need to evolve, because everything does. Punk has been a different thing in America than in Europe. In Europe, punk was part of rock and roll and in America, it was a bit more hardcore. It crosses over, though. There will be kids coming and playing after we are dead and buried. We will just keep the punk flag flying as long as we can.
Are you surprised by the demographic of your audience? No, we see a lot of the old fans coming to the shows, but I have also seen people from 16 to 60. We seem to get people of every age. They come and they seem to have a good time. They enjoy the show and they go home all sweaty.
Do you and [ex-member] Ian 'Knox' Carnochan still keep in contact with one another? Yes, he's sort of in the band. Someone said the other day that he has the Brian Wilson role. He's just not fit enough to go out on tour. He's getting a bit older and he is fragile. He's has some health problems. Nothing terribly serious, but enough to keep him off the road. We just did a new album. I don't know the title of it yet, but we have a lot of guest artists on it. Knox has written several songs for that. So, he is kind of on the sidelines doing stuff in the studio. The album will come out next year on Cleopatra Records.
Will the new album be similar to your last effort, Under the Radar? I think it is coming out better than that one. I haven't heard the finished thing yet, but we have Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks and Chris Spedding plays on one song. We played with him back in '76. [Nicky] Garrett from the U.K. Subs is also doing some stuff on the new album. We are looking forward to hearing it. It's going to be a very good album, I think.
Are The Vibrators one of the few bands from your era still playing regularly? We are one of the only bands that tours America regularly. I think some of those bands are still around. The Stranglers are still playing. The Damned are still playing. Buzzcocks are still around the well. Some of the bands that came a bit later, like 999 and the UK Subs, are still out there. We get more work and are probably busier than most of those bands.
After The Vibrators went on hiatus in the '80s, you played in the Inmates, a very underrated band. They were a very good band. I did that for fifteen or twenty years. I played on the first album and then I got tied up with the Vibrators. I came back on the fifth album, the one they did with Barrie Masters. I think I did seven albums with them. Unfortunately, they have split up because [singer] Bill [Hurley] has been sick for a long time.
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The Vibrators debut album, Pure Mania, is often listed as one of the top punk albums ever made. Did it feel special when you recorded it? I think it was a good album in its time. Whenever you first start, you make a good impression with that first album. That is a bench mark. Personally, I thought the next album, V2, was a better album. I thought we improved a lot. We've made good records recently, but people want to listen to the early stuff. We were green back then. We were young and full of vitality. I think that's what we captured.
Back in '76, did it feel like you were doing something pioneering? In a way, yes. We went to Germany and Holland and we were one of the first English punk bands to do that. We were trying to do something different. We wanted to do something a bit faster, more high energy. You have to remember that back then a lot of the music was really dull and dreary. You had bands trying to sound country like the Eagles. We wanted to get back to the spirit of rock and roll. It came to be called punk, something with a bit of an attitude. We had a different idea with the lyrics and a lot more power and energy in the music. We wanted to bring back the excitement of Little Richard. A lot of that had faded away. In '76, we had these dinosaur bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer and Yes. You had to think, God, is that we got to listen to? For me, the song that made me really question where music was going was "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen. That is an ungodly eight minutes of utter pretentious bilge that you could ever listen to. That was number one for eight weeks. We heard that kind of dribble and we knew there must be better music than that. Music needed a kick in the ass.